DOVER (England): A visibly upset Zahra Masoumah Abdul Halim burst into tears when she was forced to abandon her attempt to conquer the English Channel due to unfavourable tide and wind conditions.
The 17-year-old was pulled out of the water just over the half-way mark between Dover and Calais in France after swimming for 12 hours and 46 minutes.
Instead of swimming in a straight line, she was tossed sideways by tidal forces and forced towards the Netherlands, instead of France.
She had to struggle harder to stay on course, and was instructed by boat pilot Paul Foreman to get out of the water at 6:39pm on Wednesday (1:39am Thursday Malaysian time).
“When he told me it was all over, my tears flowed freely. I knew I could still continue although it might take at least another 12 to 15 hours,” said the girl.
Not discouraged, Zahra now plans to swim from Pulau Rupat, Indonesia to Port Dickson in Malaysia across the Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
“It’s about 50km and there is a lot of jelly fish. They’ll probably put me in a cage,” said the girl, who said she will undertake the swim with her 12-year-old brother Salman Ali Shariati later this year.
Foreman described Zahra as being incredibly brave and mentally strong, and someone whom all Malaysians should be proud of.
“She’s only 17 and has swum for the first time in cold waters for nearly 13 hours,” said Foreman, who is from the English Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation.
Zahra’s father Abdul Halim Manaf, who had followed the swim in the boat, said she was not just fighting against the tide but also the strong winds that kept pushing her back.
Her mother Haniza Mohamed said Zahra had cried and hugged her upon her return but she had then comforted her daughter by pointing out it was “good enough” to have swum that far in such unfavourable conditions.
Coach Arof Omar concurred, saying Zahra was still steady and had stayed longer in the water than the two male Cuban swimmers who had also failed in their attempts earlier.
Seven Continents Club Extreme Exploration chairman Muhamad Muqharabbin Mokhtarudin, who organised the swim, said Zahra could hold her head high for her steely determination.
Zahra took off from Shakespeare Beach at 6:07am (1:07pm Malaysian time) on Wednesday in her attempt to become the first Malaysian girl to swim across the channel.
The taxpayer pays RM80,000 for her to not make it. Did that doctor who swim the english channel get this money for free? Nah, he went back to Oxford like nothing happens. 2 standard , 1 Malaysia